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Kentucky will honor ex-coach Tubby Smith with retired jersey

NCAA Basketball: Memphis at Connecticut

Feb 25, 2018; Storrs, CT, USA; Memphis Tigers head coach Tubby Smith watches from the sideline as they take on the Connecticut Huskies in the second half at Gampel Pavilion. Memphis defeated UConn 83-79. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky plans to honor former coach Tubby Smith, who led the Wildcats to the 1998 NCAA men’s basketball championship and multiple Southeastern Conference titles, by retiring a jersey later this year.

The ceremony is set for Kentucky’s Dec. 31 home game against High Point, where Smith currently coaches.

Smith coached the Wildcats from 1997 to 2007 and guided the “Comeback Cats” through several double-digit deficits in the 1998 NCAA tournament to win the title in his first season, when he went 35-4. Smith had a 263-83 overall record with the program and won either a SEC regular season or tournament title seven times in 10 years.

Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart told Smith about the honor during a surprise Zoom call, according to a news release. Smith called it “very humbling” and added that he was looking forward to the event.

“I’m certainly grateful to have had the opportunity to lead that program,” Smith said during the call. “Some wonderful people there, wonderful fans. You can’t find better people. They have a passion for the game, not just basketball but for the Wildcats, period.”

Smith earned national coach of the year and SEC coach of the year honors three times each at Kentucky. His career has included stints at Tulsa, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas Tech and Memphis.

“It is with great pride, enjoyment and a sense of excitement that we add one more name to the list of people who will see their names in the rafters of Rupp Arena and that’s Orlando `Tubby’ Smith,” Barnhart said in the news release.